The recent acquisition of FBN shares by an entity associated with Oba Otudeko, an erstwhile chairman of the bank has sparked a fierce tussle for control among major shareholders of Nigeria’s oldest bank.
Some of the major shareholders are said to have held a crucial meeting Sunday to plot how to respond to the apparent emergence of Otudeko as the bank’s single largest equity holder.
This Day reported that the shareholders are weighing all the options that would facilitate a quick resolution of all the issues thrown up by the slew of share acquisitions and Otudeko’s comeback bid, which has fetched him a 13 per cent ownership of the company, and the right to sit on the board.
The current board was appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and according to one of the sources, the shareholders are bent on taking control of their bank with the source, adding that these are the issues the concerned shareholders will try to resolve at the meeting. The shareholders are said to be concerned about the consequences of having Otudeko back in control of the bank in any capacity, following the debacle he had with the central bank two years ago.
The shares, which Otudeko bought at N19 per unit, are the largest volume of First Bank shares traded in a single day since 2012, when the stock exchange started publishing data. The acquisitions raised his shareholding to 14 per cent of the bank’s outstanding market value.
It was also reported that trade is valued at about N85.5 billion and is one of the largest single trades recorded for the stock this year.
“The shareholders were appointed by the CBN and they are determined to take full control of their bank. These are the issues that must be resolved.
In April 2021, the central bank removed Oba Otudeko as chairman and sacked the board of the bank.However, a “disclosure of shareholding” sent to the Company Secretary, FBN Holdings Plc and dated July 7, 2023, by the Head of Governance and Sustainability at Honeywell Group Limited, Yewande Giwa, stated: “We write on behalf of Barbican Capital Limited, an affiliate of Honeywell Group Limited and refer to the provisions of Sections 119 and 120 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (as amended).
“In addition to the previously disclosed interests by Honeywell Group Limited’s affiliates, kindly take this as notification that, as of 7th July 2023, Barbican Capital Limited has acquired an aggregate of 4,770,269,843 shares in FBN Holdings Plc.”
The running battle began when the former board refused to extend the tenure of CEO Adesola Adeduntan for an unusual third term, and only for Emefiele to use his regulatory powers to reverse the board’s position on the CEO.
According to a former director of the bank, “the current board of First Bank is an anomaly. The board was created by the suspended central bank governor. Regulators do not own or run companies. Companies are owned and run by shareholders. This is the time to reverse this anomaly.”
Adeduntan’s reinstatement was after the Otudeko-led board was itself sacked by Emefiele in what many believed was linked to dealings between FBNH and Heritage Bank and the stout resolve of the erstwhile directors not to follow suggestions by the apex bank.